Ciscoe Morris stops by to show us how to spruce up our winter gardens with ornamental grasses. These plants will last through the winter, and liven up any outdoor space. Ciscoe goes over all the different varieties and seasonal upkeep.
Evergreen ornamental grasses provide color and attractive foliage throughout the entire year. While deciduous species die back during the fall and winter, evergreen grasses stand strong and help keep your landscape or garden looking lively. When choosing evergreen grasses, take into consideration the planting location and usage of the grass.
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens): blue oat grass, is a true grass, native to central and southwest European grasslands. It produces graceful fountains of silver-blue blades that form neat ornamental clumps that combine well with other grasses and perennial plants. Airy, beige to light brown, terminal panicles appear mid- to late summer. A reliable and attractive accent or specimen, perfect for rock gardens. This plant can end up looking like Phyllis Diller on a bad hair day. Don't make the mistake of cutting blue oat grass to the ground in spring. Instead, where rubber fronted gloves and pull the ugly dead grass out leaving the attractive blue leaves to glow in the winter landscape.
Blue Zinger Sedge (Carex flacca 'Blue Zinger'): Blue Zinger sedge, is a dense, cool-season, clump-forming but slowly creeping, grass-like, evergreen sedge which typically grows to 6-10” tall and features narrow, arching, somewhat coarse leaves (3/16” wide) which are blue-green above but blue-gray beneath. It is native to areas around the Mediterranean where it typically grows in calcareous grasslands, marshes, sand dunes, and estuaries in southern Europe and North Africa. It is primarily grown in landscapes as a ground cover for its foliage effect. Insignificant flowers appear in early summer on terminal, cylindrical spikes to 12” tall. Plants spread somewhat slowly, but will form colonies after several years and can be used as an effective ground cover. Tolerates very light foot traffic. - Easily grown in medium to wet soils in part shade to full shade. Thrives in moist soils, including standing water to 1-2” deep, but established plants also perform well in average garden soils with some moderate tolerance for drought. Will grow in full sun in cool Seattle. Evergreen in warm winter climates, but if the foliage looks bad in spring, cut the entire plant to the ground in late-February or early March.
Golden Japanese Sedge (Carex oshimensis 'Evergold'): Evergold sedge can be tucked almost anywhere in the garden. Growing to be about 12” tall, the graceful, thin blades are complimented by a yellow stripe. Instantly adding depth and texture to any garden bed. Best in morning sun or bright shade, I tuck it into my perennial border in full-sun and it does great. Really adds a cheery glow in the winter garden. Give it a boost with an application of organic lawn fertilizer, and make sure to keep the soil moist until the leaves grow back. While you’re at it, the best time to divide Carex is in late April to early May. Simply dig the plant and use an old pruning saw or a knife to cut it into well rooted sections. Just make sure to plant the divisions in shade and water extra often until the new leaves grow back.
Uncinia rubra 'Belinda's Find': Belinda's Find Red Hook Sedge (Uncinia rubra 'Belinda's Find'): This very attractive evergreen sedge is compact and arching featuring coppery bronze leaves with bright cherry red margins form clumps 12” tall x 18” wide. Enjoys evenly moist well drained soil in sun to part shade (full sun on coast). Deer resistant; nice at path’s edge and in rock gardens. Good looking all year. - Warning, seed heads can get stuck in dog or cat fur. If that's a possible problem, remove seed heads. Cut to ground in spring if it looks beat to tweetle.
Red Rooster Sedge (Carex buchananii 'Red Rooster'): What could be cooler than a plant that everyone who sees it thinks is dead. I love this sedge for its finely textured upright, V-shaped habit that adds texture, form and motion to plantings. The red-bronze color looks great mixed with other grasses and plants in containers and beds. It does best in a sunny location. Keep soil on the moist side. - Cut to ground if ugly in spring. Spreads by seed but generally not a problem.
Cappuccino sedge (Carex tenuiculmis 'Cappuccino'): This coffee colored sedge is one of my favorite evergreen grass like plants. Graceful, arching mounds of deep cappuccino to reddish bronze colored foliage 12 to 18 inches high and as wide. Grow in sun or light shade in moist, gravelly soil. - Cut back hard if it looks bad in spring.
Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus Spiralis): Corkscrew Rush, is a low maintenance grass-like perennial that grows to a height of about 18 inches, producing stems with a corkscrew-like, twisted appearance. A variety of common rush, Corkscrew Rush offers unusual ornamental value to a pond side or other wet area in the garden. The plant is suitable for containers, and is often clipped for use in flower arrangements. This is a moisture and sun loving plant. A pond or other area prone to regular flooding is ideal for this wetlands plant. Corkscrew Rush thrives in acidic, wet soils that have poor drainage. The plant may be cultivated in shallow water as deep as 4 inches, or it may be grown near water with pebbles and rocks. Corkscrew Rush is a tough plant that can withstand brief periods of drought, but it will become brown and unsightly if left without water. Pull the old leaves off if it looks bad in spring.
So let evergreen grass like plants add beauty and interest to your winter garden.